Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Stanford courses online

Stanford University is offering more of its courses online for free to anyone.

http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=55991

What does this mean for other universities and college education long-term?

"Christos Porios is a 16‐year‐old high school student who lives in
Alexandropoulos, Greece. He has never seen the Stanford campus: never gazed
up Palm Drive on a September morning, walked around the Quad or pedaled
across White Plaza. He has no real ties to the University. Yet he credits a
Stanford course with changing his life.
Porios was among an astonishing 100,000 people who signed up last fall for an
experimental online course on applied machine learning, the science of getting
computers to act without being explicitly programmed. Computer science
professor Andrew Ng designed the course for Stanford students, but at the last
minute he decided to make his digitally recorded lectures, exams and
programming assignments available online to anyone, free of charge."

My own opinion is that online education is a reality, and some aspects of traditional university teaching will change, and in some cases change dramatically. It's likely a small number of schools will choose to retain traditional teaching modes, but many more will have to embrace asynchronous, a-localized teaching processes. What will "brand" mean in that context?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Predicting failure

The problem with predicting failure is, well, that it often fails...

"A Nobel Prize for Failure"

"Yesterday saw the announcement of the first Nobel Prize of 2012, which was the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. The prize was awarded jointly to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka, for their work on stem cells. Among all the genuine plaudits and explanations about what exactly it is they got the prize for, one amusing element has come up as well.
It turns out that Gurdon was once told by his biology teacher that he was a terrible student. The full quote reads:
"I believe Gurdon has ideas about becoming a scientist; on his present showing this is quite ridiculous; if he can't learn simple biological facts he would have no chance of doing the work of a specialist, and it would be a sheer waste of time, both on his part and of those who would have to teach him."
This prediction, to put it as diplomatically as possible, turns out to have been incorrect. This was same time ago, Gurdon is now in his seventies, but I would still argue with this harsh conclusion (even without the obvious benefit of hindsight). Firmly sticking to the established facts is far from a universal requirement for decent scientists, if anything it's unhelpful. Try filling a PhD thesis with established facts, your examiners might have something to say about that."

This is a phenomenon common to entrepreneurial activity, as Gerry George and I note in our book, Models of Opportunity: How entrepreneurs design firms to achieve the unexpected.

Predicting individual or venture success when uncertainty is high and the innovation is radical or disruptive appears to be nearly impossible. Of course, this makes teaching entrepreneurship an even bigger challenge, since the tools we provide to students for opportunity assessment cannot take this type of unpredictability into account.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

To Lecture or Not? - Tomorrow's Professor post

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2011/04/26/tp-msg-1096-lose-the-lectures/


TP Msg. #1096 Lose the Lectures

As a young physics professor at Harvard in the 1980s, Eric Mazur was certain his lecture-hall classes were a huge success. And why wouldn’t they be? His students got top grades, and his teaching evaluations were stellar. But in the early ’90s, Mazur gave some of his students a series of tests that clearly showed they didn’t understand the underlying concepts of what he was teaching them — even the most basic. “My illusion of being a good teacher became unraveled,” Mazur admits.
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Folks:
The posting below looks at the work of the innovator of "peer instruction" and the huge impact this approach= is having on student learning. It by Thomas K. Grose and is from Prism, February, 2011. Copyright 2011 American Society for Engineering Education 1818 N Street, N.W., Suite 600 Washington, DC 20036-2479 Web: www.asee.org Telephone: (202) 331-3500. Reprinted with permission.
Regards,
Rick Reis reis@stanford.edu UP NEXT: Joining Your Department and Discipline - Negotiating Tips
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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Lose the Lectures A physics professor relies on Q&A, class discussions.
As a young physics professor at Harvard in the 1980s, Eric Mazur was certain his lecture-hall classes were a huge success. And why wouldn’t they be? His students got top grades, and his teaching evaluations were stellar. But in the early ’90s, Mazur gave some of his students a series of tests that clearly showed they didn’t understand the underlying concepts of what he was teaching them — even the most basic. “My illusion of being a good teacher became unraveled,” Mazur admits.
His students were merely memorizing facts and regurgitating them and reproducing mathematical solutions that were not new. To Mazur, that’s not learning; for him, education is assimilating information and being able to use that knowledge to solve new problems. Stuff learned by rote is quickly forgotten; but understanding is something students never lose, he believes.
So Mazur – a world-renowned researcher of ultrafast optics, particularly short-pulse lasers – began investigating another topic that’s since become a second, major research area for him: science education. And he ultimately developed a novel, interactive teaching method for lecture-hall classes – Peer Instruction – that over the past decade has come into wide use around the world in a variety of disciplines.
Essentially, Mazur dispenses with lectures. Instead, he teaches by asking questions – after all, isn’t science an inquiry-based discipline? Ahead of classes, students are assigned to read a certain text or watch a video, but in the classroom itself, it’s Q&A time. And integral to the method is students teaching students, hence the title, Peer Instruction. Mazur asks a question about a concept, and gives students a minute or two to reflect, then another two to three minutes to discuss the question in groups of five or six and come up with a consensus answer.
Mazur stumbled upon the method when he had trouble getting a group of students to understand a simple (to him) principle, Newton’s Third Law. In frustration, he told them to discuss it among themselves. They did. And they came up with the right answer.
Recent research by his Mazur Group indicates that the method does help students grasp concepts that once eluded them. There’s also evidence it helps close the gender gap in grades, and improves the retention of freshman and junior students in science majors. It works, Mazur says, because those students who have deduced the correct answer have only just mastered that knowledge, so are more attuned to why their peers are still in the dark and hence can more intuitively guide them to enlightenment. The method’s been documented in his book, Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual, and in an award-winning DVD he coproduced, Interactive Teaching.
Mazur also pioneered the now popular use of wireless remotes, or “clickers,” in the classroom to help gauge student understanding of material. He stresses, however, that “it’s the pedagogy that matters, not the technology.” His earliest attempts at interactive teaching used flashcards in lieu of clickers. The Netherlands-born Mazur, 56, who is also dean of applied physics, continues to look for better ways to teach science. Lecture demonstrations are perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of physics classes, but passive viewing of demonstrations doesn’t enhance student understanding, studies show. So his group is looking for ways to make demonstrations more effective, while keeping the fun intact.
He’s also critical of researchers who find teaching a chore. Mazur finds it “shocking” that academia is so unsystematic in its approach to instruction. “I am a professor. I am supposed to be a teacher.”
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Online learning - Tomorrow's Professor post

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2011/05/24/tp-msg-1104-rethinking-higher-education-in-an-online-and-recession-wary-world/



TP Msg. #1104 Rethinking Higher Education in an Online and Recession-Wary World

“I do not think we understand . . . how the Web is going to reshape what we do. All you have to do is look at the press. Five years ago no one anticipated the situation the press finds itself in now economically. And, while universities are different, you have to ask, are we the last institution to feel and experience the full very, very significant effects of this new technology and all that can be done with it?”
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Folks:
The posting below looks at the changing role of technology and its impact in higher education. It is Eric D. Miller, Kent State University, East Liverpool, Ohio and is #55 in a series of selected excerpts from The National Teaching and Learning Forum newsletter reproduced here as part of our "Shared Mission Partnership." NT&LF has a wealth of information on all aspects of teaching and learning. If you are not already a subscriber, you can check it out at [http://www.ntlf.com/] The on-line edition of the Forum--like the printed version - offers subscribers insight from colleagues eager to share new ways of helping students reach the highest levels of learning. National Teaching and Learning Forum Newsletter, Vol. 20, Number 3, March 2011.© Copyright 1996-2011. Published by James Rhem & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Reprinted with permission.
Regards,
Rick Reis reis@stanford.edu UP NEXT: Advising Undecided and Indecisive Students
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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Rethinking Higher Education in an Online and Recession-Wary World Educational professionals and laypersons alike often try to make sense of two seminal changes that continue to impact our world: The ever-growing use and availability of sophisticated technologies and the consequences of a crippling economic downturn that have sent unemployment levels to their highest since the era of the Great Depression and World War II. Higher education is not immune to these two dramatic developments. In fact, in order to ensure its relevance, higher education must accept and adjust to these new realities.
The Rise of the Online Education
For centuries, American universities have followed conventional teaching methods: All knowing professors were to lecture students about a certain subject generally in a fixed location and at a specific time. Until recently, it would have been academic heresy to suggest any other mode of instruction. Dramatic advances in Internet technology now seriously call into question the rationale of these conventional teaching methods. Instructors can easily teach students online from any location and at any time using a wealth of resources, such as ebooks, Web links, and YouTube video clips. Indeed, the proliferation of online education has grown tremendously over the past decade (e.g., Li & Irby 2008). Online education has even been embraced in terms of its use for nontraditional students (e.g., Karber 2003) and applied fields such as health sciences (e.g., Nelson 2008).
Certainly, online education has potential benefits and drawbacks. Some benefits include constant availability of instructional material, conservation of university and student resources, and educational flexibility. Some potential drawbacks, however, include skepticism by some faculty regarding the quality of online classes, the capability of some faculty to teach such classes, and whether students can learn in a more selfsufficient manner (e.g., Li & Irby 2008).
Even so, many in higher education appear to have (at best) an ambivalent attitude towards online learning. Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) columnist Thomas H. Benton (2009) cites two seemingly contradictory studies. A Department of Education investigation suggests that online learning is at least as effective as traditional classes. Yet, a study by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that 70 percent of 10,000 faculty members surveyed viewed online courses as either “inferior” or “somewhat inferior” to traditional ones; even 48 percent of professors who have taught online did not view them as favorably as face-to-face teaching. Benton suggests that there is no logical reason as to why many faculty should be wary of online teaching.
The Reality and Consequences of the Economic Crisis
The long-term consequences, especially in regards to higher education, of the economic recession that officially began in December 2007 are still difficult to access. Political columnist and commentator Michael Barone (2010) suggests that those in higher education should be very concerned about a coming “bubble” that may burst in academia. In particular, he warns that many individuals will question the worth and expense of a college degree if it is virtually impossible to find a good paying job. Further, if students do not receive sufficient funding to attend college, then colleges and universities will have additional hardships to bear. A recent Newsweek cover story by Senator Lamar Alexander (2009), former U.S. Education Secretary and University of Tennessee President, argues that higher education needs to work to revitalize itself in order to remain relevant in our ever-changing society, or else it may face the same perils as the U.S. automobile industry.
Interestingly, the economic crisis and the rise of Web technologies may share many interconnected consequences. In the same issue of Newsweek, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger (2009) opines:
“I do not think we understand . . . how the Web is going to reshape what we do. All you have to do is look at the press. Five years ago no one anticipated the situation the press finds itself in now economically. And, while universities are different, you have to ask, are we the last institution to feel and experience the full very, very significant effects of this new technology and all that can be done with it?” (p. 33).
Carey (2009) adds that higher education needs to heed the warning signs currently being experienced by traditional newspapers increasingly threatened by online resources. That is, traditional subscriptions and revenues continue to decline whereas Internet growth continues to grow. If higher education fails to appreciate the importance of online education to its future, it too may increasingly struggle to find its relevance.
Looking Back and Thinking Ahead for Higher Education
Imagine and revisit the general state and nature of higher education just twenty years ago. Twenty years ago, most of us could not have envisioned the use of email, ebooks, Web links/clips, and social networking sites for educational and personal use. Arguably, it is even more challenging to try to imagine higher education twenty years from now.
But, the reality is that a simple— but profound—shift has taken root in academia. It used to be that students had to physically travel to a specific place to be taught “face to face” by a given instructor at a specific time. Moreover, in order to have regular access to scholarly information, one usually needed to be part of a given physical community, such as a particular college or university. Those days are over. Students increasingly can take online courses that do not require travel or face-to-face interaction with professors. Additionally, the Web affords most individuals much greater availability of information and knowledge than arguably at any point in history.
Those who fail to appreciate this new paradigm, or even outright reject it, should consider whether traditional educational practices generally make good pedagogical or economical sense. Indeed, many suggest that they do not. In their provocative book, Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do About It, Hacker and Dreifus (2010) suggest that higher education often has its priorities misplaced. Instead of focusing on providing students with a solid education, colleges and universities generally prioritize faculty research over teaching and spend exorbitant amounts of money on sporting and social events.
In order to accentuate the urgency of appreciating the relevance of new technologies for higher education, consider the following point: Children enrolled in elementary school today have never experienced a world where the use and prevalence of technology in their education and daily lives was not present. Most of these children utilize advanced technologies on a regular basis. Presumably, most of these children will be enrolling in colleges within a decade or so and may expect to continue to utilize these technologies as part of their education. How is higher education preparing for these students? The answer to this question, which is still unclear, may help to explain how higher education has adapted to both the realities of online education and related technologies and the fallout from the economic crisis.
References
• Alexander, L. October 26, 2009. “The Three-year Solution: How the Reinvention of Higher Education Benefits Parents, Students, and Schools.” Newsweek, 154, 26-29. • Barone, M. September 6, 2010. “The Higher Education Bubble.” National Review Online.Http://www.nationalreview.com/ articles/245715/higher-education-bubblemichael-barone. • Benton, T. H. September 18, 2009. “Online Learning: Reaching Out to the Skeptics.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Http://chronicle.com/article/ Online-Learning-Reaching-O/48375. • Carey, K. April 3, 2009. “What Colleges Should Learn from Newspapers’ Decline.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Http:// chronicle.com/article/What-Colleges-ShouldLearn-/15693. • Hacker, A., and Dreifus, C. 2010. Higher Education?: How Colleges Are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids—and What We Can Do about It. New York: Holt. • Karber, D. J. 2003. “Comparisons and Contrasts in Traditional Versus On-line Teaching in Management.” Higher Education in Europe, 26: 533-536. • Li., C. and Irby, B. 2008. “An Overview of Online Education: Attractiveness, Benefits, Challenges, Concerns and Recommendations. College Student Journal, 42: 449-458. • Nelson, J. A. 2008. “Advantages of Online Education.” Home Health Care Management & Practice, 20: 501-502. • Rosenberg, D. October 26, 2009. “What’s College for Anyway?: A Debate over the Role of Higher Education.” Newsweek, 154: 30-33.
Contact: Eric D. Miller, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychology Kent State University 400 E. 4th Street E. Liverpool, OH 43920 Email: edmille1@kent.edu Telephone: (330) 382-7436

Peer-based learning - Tomorrow's Professor post

http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/2011/06/03/tp-msg-1106-asking-students-to-help-each-other-understand-ideas-or-concepts/


Students helping each other learn mimics humans’ innate learning process, a process for which we are genetically and environmentally engineered. This is enough of an explanation, and a powerful one, to help your students understand why peer learning is suitable in the college classroom: their brains are built to learn via collaboration.
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Folks:
The posting below gives some good suggestions on how to make the case for collaborative learning to your students and your colleagues. It is IDEA Item #18 by Jeff King of the Art Institute of Dallas and is from POD-IDEA Center Notes on Instruction series. Michael Theall, Youngston State University, series editor. POD is the Professional and Organizational Development Network [http://www.podnetwork.org/] and the iDEA Center is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve colleges and universities committed to improving learning, teaching, and leadership performance.[http://www.theideacenter.org/] July, 2004. ©2005 The IDEA Center. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Regards,
Rick Reis reis@stanford.edu UP NEXT: Writing an Article in 12 Weeks
Tomorrow's Teaching and Learning
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Asking Students to Help Each Other Understand Ideas or Concepts
Background
Having students help other students learn is a powerful classroom technique. Collaborative learning uses this approach to achieve content focused and process-oriented goals, both of which are important for college learning success. Research (1) shows that cooperative learning improves students’ achievement, persistence, and attitudes. Collaboration with fellow learners increases motivation and helps students take responsibility for their own and their peers’ learning (2, 3, 4). Included among the process oriented goals achieved by collaboration is the development of marketable skills such as: problem-solving, project management, team player competencies, communication, and social skills (5). Cooperation is one of the “7 Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education” (6) and well-structured group work and other collaborative activities that ask students to help each other learn pay big dividends in student success.
IDEA Item #18 highly correlates with other teaching methods addressed in the IDEA questionnaire. These include item #1 (displaying a personal interest in students), #2 (helping students answer their own questions), #5 (forming teams or groups to facilitate learning), #7 (explaining the reasons for criticism of student academic performance),#15 (inspiring students to set/achieve challenging goals), and #16 (asking students to share ideas/experiences with others of differing backgrounds). In addition, this method also correlates strongly as a learning strategy with learning objectives related to item #25 (working in a team), item #26 (developing creative capacities), and item #32 (interest in learning more by asking questions/ seeking answers).
Helpful Hints
Because learning experiences built around student collaboration are not prevalent in lecture based classrooms (the kinds of classes that predominate in many college experiences), you may not have many models for designing an environment that prompts students to help each other learn. It is also true that your students may not have done much successful collaborative learning. Address learners’ inexperience with successful peer involvement in the learning process by providing an explanation of why this approach works and how your students will benefit. Students helping each other learn mimics humans’ innate learning process, a process for which we are genetically and environmentally engineered. This is enough of an explanation, and a powerful one, to help your students understand why peer learning is suitable in the college classroom: their brains are built to learn via collaboration. One of the reasons learning is often difficult in college is precisely because it is not collaborative (see Smith [7] for fascinating reading and plenty of support to convince your students that peer learning works). You can also share with students the idea that most employers will not lecture for fifty minutes and give a test a week later to determine whether employees have earned paychecks --- your students will do in your classroom what they will be doing on the job as they work in groups, make presentations, tutor each other, etc. Their future on-the-job learning will mimic their learning in your classroom. This is a powerful convincer for the process. That peer learning skills help make life-long learning easier is an additional convincing argument given the need for future worker-earners to adapt to, and survive in, the workplace.
Next, describe what the process looks like, what students will do, what outcomes they will produce within what time frame, and how they will access support and resources during the process. This is the key to successful peer learning, and it requires careful planning on your part.
Some planning tips are: 1) peer learning can take many forms --- use a variety of approaches (group work, presentations to the class by teams or individuals, jigsaw technique [8], class discussions in which you solicit alternative explanations from students, etc.); 2) for group work projects, provide a group charter for groups to complete in which they specify who will do what, operational guidelines, contact information, deadlines, etc. --- this gives students confidence you know what you are doing and have the ability to help them succeed with peer learning, and it provides one measuring stick against which to assess performance in many areas; 3) structure the collaborative learning process so that there are assessment points throughout for you and for the students’ self- and peer-assessment (this requires that you identify how you and they will know whether they are succeeding in helping each other learn; progress reports, for example, are one way to accomplish this); 4) support your students by facilitating and acting as a resource in both content and process, a different role from the implicit possessor/dispenser of knowledge role sometimes assumed by lecturers; and, 5) celebrate students’ inventiveness as they discover teaching metaphors, techniques, and approaches you may never have considered in your own presentations.
Assessment Issues
The rules of good formative assessment apply to peer learning (9). Particularly important among these are providing immediate feedback, frequent feedback, and feedback that enables students to clearly distinguish between good and bad choices and decisions (3). You can structure such feedback in group work by defining it and the required check point reports each group creates in the group charter. All peer learning demands careful overview by the instructor in the form of facilitation and oversight; this is why frequent input from learners is important --- it affords you the chance to ensure that no misinformation or misunderstanding exists. Also, it is extremely important in peer learning activities to provide learners guidance in the form of solid rubrics for their output. One successful method is to provide examples of output meeting varying levels of achievement as defined by the rubrics. Journals and other ongoing reports (oral or written) will also keep groups on task and help you to follow their progress.
References and Resources
(1) Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69, 21-51.
(2) Paris, S. G., & Turner, J. C. (1994). Situated motivation. In P. R. Pintrich, D. R. Brown, & C. E. Weinstein (Eds.), Student motivation, cognition, and learning: Essays in honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie (pp. 213-238). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
(3) Michaelsen, L. K., Knight, A. B., & Fink, L. D. (2003). Preface. In L. K. Michaelsen, A. B. Knight, & L. D. Fink (Eds.), Team-based learning: A transformative use of small groups, (pp. vii-xi). Westport, CT: Praeger.
(4) Weimer, M. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
(5) Sheetz, L. P. (1995). Recruiting trends: 1995-1996. East Lansing, MI: Collegiate Employment Research Institute, Michigan State University.
(6) Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z. F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. Wingspread Journal. June
(7) Smith, F. (1998). The book of learning and forgetting. New York: Teachers College Press.
(8) Aronson, E., & Patnoe, S. (1997). The jigsaw classroom: Building cooperation in the classroom. New York: Addison Wesley Longman.
(9) Huba, M. E., & Freed, J. E. (2000). Learner centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
IDEA Paper No. 15: Improving Discussions, Cashin and McKnight
IDEA Paper No. 38: Enhancing Learning-and More! - Through Cooperative Learning, Millis ©2005 The IDEA Center
This document may be reproduced for educational/training activities. Reproduction for publication or sale may be done only with prior written permission of The IDEA Center.
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Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Hands-on learning - Tomorrows Professor


http://derekbruff.org/blogs/tomprof/?s=1173&submit=Search


"Designing effective hands-on projects takes time and practice, and preparing students to succeed with these assignments requires a different kind of teaching, but most instructors find that the rewards are worth it. The following suggestions may ease the transition from more traditional practices to the hands-on activities and assignments described (below)."

Tomorrow's Professor Msg.#1173 Involving Students in ‘Hands-on’ Projects Such as Research, Case Studies, or ‘Real Life’ Activities

 
Folks:

The posting below gives some specific advice on designing good hand-on experiences for students. It is IDEA Item #14 by Virginia S. Lee and is from POD-IDEA Center Notes on Instruction series. Michael Theall, Youngston State University, series editor. POD is the Professional and Organizational Development Network [http://www.podnetwork.org/] and the IDEA Center is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve colleges and universities committed to improving learning, teaching, and leadership performance.[http://www.theideacenter.org/] July, 2004. ©2005 The IDEA Center. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis
reis@stanford.edu
UP NEXT:

Tomorrow\'s Teaching and Learning
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Involving Students in \'Hands-on\' Projects Such as Research, Case Studies, or \'Real Life\' Activities

Background
According to a number of contemporary theories of learning that are bundled under the umbrella term \"constructivism,\" learners don\'t acquire new knowledge simply by being exposed to it. Rather, they put new information into existing mental frameworks or \"schema.\" Thus, learning does not necessarily take place through processes like delivery, transmission, or osmosis: a kind of one-way flow from teacher to student that is assumed by traditional teaching practices such as the lecture. Instead learners construct new ideas and concepts through an active process of engagement. Further, knowledge is highly context dependent, acquired through experience and involvement in real-world situations (1).

In many schools serving professions such as law, business, engineering, and medicine, teaching practices such as the case study method and problem-based learning are becoming increasingly common, replacing traditional teaching methods. Over time experts in these fields have found that novices often struggle to translate knowledge acquired through lectures and memorization into the useable forms required by practice. Research in medicine, for example, has found that experienced doctors store their clinical knowledge in the form of specific cases with accompanying scripts about the relevant illness (2). More and more undergraduate instructors, regardless of discipline, are catching on and using similar methods with their students (3), and students in turn are reporting that they enjoy these experiences and learn from them (4). Finally as more and more institutions aspire to higher-level learning outcomes such as critical thinking and problem-solving, engaging students in hands-on projects becomes increasingly important.

Well-designed activities and assignments not only require students to possess foundational knowledge, they also ask students to think like professionals. For example, students must ask questions like: What does the particular context require? Who is my audience, and what can I assume about it? What form of presentation is most appropriate for this situation? What is the best solution to this problem, and why? (5). Most students like learning this way, and learn more as a result, and because the level of discourse is higher, it\'s also more challenging for instructors, often rekindling their excitement about teaching.

Helpful Hints

Designing effective hands-on projects takes time and practice, and preparing students to succeed with these assignments requires a different kind of teaching, but most instructors find that the rewards are worth it. The following suggestions may ease the transition from more traditional practices to the hands-on activities and assignments described here:

Start small.

Don\'t think that you have to completely transform your teaching: one day nothing but the lecture, the next problem-based learning all the way. If you\'re like most instructors, you\'re juggling many responsibilities and don\'t have time to do a full-scale overhaul all at once. So start small: for example, get your feet wet with a small case study that students read and discuss in small groups during class time. Then build from there.

Persist. 

If your first attempt doesn\'t work exactly as you had planned, try to figure out why, tweak it, and try again. It will take both you and your students a while to get used to this way of teaching.

Explain. 

Tell students why you\'re using hands-on projects and solicit their feedback. Some students may be resistant at first: they may never have done projects like these and are not sure what you expect. Explain the project thoroughly and encourage students to ask questions. Monitor students\' progress throughout and try to catch misunderstandings early.

Get advice. 

Ask a colleague or a consultant from a teaching and learning center to read your assignment of a hands-on project before you give it to students. What may be perfectly clear to you may not be clear to someone else. Clarifying assignment requirements at this stage will reduce student confusion and insure that more students have the kind of learning experience you intend through the assignment.

Revise. 

Adapt hands-on projects for larger classes. Even in large classes, hands-on projects are possible, if you divide students into groups of four or five students for in-class activities or out- of-class assignments. If out-of-class assignments seem too ambitious, try them as an option for some students.

Use technology. 

Appropriate use of technology can make hands-on assignments easier. Cases or short examples might be in video or other formats that can be available via a course website or through a course management system. WWW resources are always available and students can either be directed to them or be required to search for them. Technology can also facilitate student meetings or communications with you or other students.

Assessment Issues
Depending upon whether you\'re using hands-on projects such as in-class activities or out-of-class assignments, the assessment requirements will differ. If you\'re concerned about issues related to in-class activities including their design and management, then asking an experienced colleague and/or a staff member from a teaching and learning center to review your activity plan or observe your classroom when you run the activity, may be the best course. Soliciting feedback from students is also a good idea. Questions like, \"Were your directions clear?\", \"Did they enjoy the activity?\", \"Did they believe they learned something from it?\", and \"What changes could have improved the activity and its impact on their learning?\" are all helpful. On the other hand, if you\'re using a hands-on project as an assignment, in addition to having a colleague review the assignment beforehand, you might also wish to assess the impact of the assignment and related class activities on student learning. Here designing a rubric or scoring guide to accompany the assignment will be helpful (6). A rubric will help you pinpoint your expectations for the assignment, communicate them to your students, and clarify indicators of different levels of performance on the assignment. In addition to facilitating better feedback to students, rubrics also allow you to identify aspects of the assignment that most students seem to understand and those aspects that give students difficulty. Identifying areas that give students difficulty will also help you target aspects of your teaching that need attention and fine-tuning.

References and Resources
(1) See,
http://www.cudenver.edu/~mryder/itc/constructivism.html Retrieved August 4, 2004.

(2) Irby, D. M. (1994). What clinical teachers in medicine need to know. Academic Medicine, 69(5), 333-342.

(3) See, for example,
http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/projects/cases/ case.html and http://www.udel.edu/pbl Retrieved August 4, 2004.

(4) Light, R. J. (2001). Making the most of college: Students speak their minds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

(5) Huba, M. E., & Freed J. E. (2000). Learner- centered assessment on college campuses: Shifting the focus from teaching to learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. See chapter 7.

(6) Walvoord, B. E., & Anderson, V. J. (1998).
Effective grading: A tool for learning and assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. See chapter 5.

IDEA Paper No. 34: Focusing On Active, Meaningful Learning, Stalheim-Smith

IDEA Paper No. 38: Enhancing Learning-and More! - Through Cooperative Learning, Millis
©2005 The IDEA Center This document may be reproduced for educational/training activities. Reproduction for publication or sale may be done only with prior written permission of The IDEA Center.
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Thursday, 7 June 2012

What Does The Excellent Online Instructor Look Like?

From Tomorrow's Professor:

The posting below looks at some of the characteristics of the excellent online instructor. It is from Chapter One, What Are the Characteristics of Excellent Online Teaching?, in the book, The Excellent Online Instructor: Strategies for Professional Development, by Rena M. Palloff and Keith Pratt. Published by Jossey-Bass: A Wiley Imprint, 989 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103-1741 www.josseybass.com


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The growing popularity of online instruction has brought with it increasing recognition that teaching online differs from face-to-face teaching. As a result, more attention is being paid to what constitutes positive educational experiences online and the characteristics of good online instructors and courses. Organizations such as Quality Matters have emerged that are designed to evaluate online course design, and faculty at many institutions are being trained as Quality Matters evaluators so as to determine the quality of courses being designed by their peers and to offer suggestions for improvement. In addition, other institutions, such as California State University?Chico (Rubric for Online Instruction) and the Illinois Online Network (Quality Online Course Initiative Rubric) have published course design rubrics that are available online for anyone who wants to evaluate his or her own course. These can also be used as components of the evaluation of good course design and
 online teaching practice. Like the Quality Matters rubric, the CSU-Chico rubric focuses primarily on good design elements. The Illinois Online Network QOCI, however, does look at elements that promote collaboration between students and interaction between student and instructor.

In one of our previous books (Palloff & Pratt, 2003), we noted that much of the literature on best practices in online teaching was limited to the effective use of various technologies. Since that time, however, more attention has been paid to what constitutes best practice in online instruction. This aligns closely with our discussion of Graham, Kursat, Byung-Ro, Craner, and Duffy?s (2001) article linking the Chickering and Gamson (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education to online teaching. Graham et al. note the following seven lessons for online instruction: Instructors should provide clear guidelines for interaction with students; provide well-designed discussion assignments to promote cooperation among students; encourage students to present course projects to one another; provide prompt feedback of two types?information and acknowledgement; provide assignment deadlines; provide challenging tasks, sample cases, and praise for high-quality work
 to reinforce high expectations; and allow students to choose project topics.

Based on Weimer?s (2002) work on learner-focused teaching, in order to achieve all of this, we note that several things need to happen:

The balance of power needs to change ? The instructor online acts as a learning facilitator, allowing students to take charge of their own learning process.

The function of content needs to change ? As noted by Carr-Chellman and Duchastel (2001), good online course design makes learning resources and instructional activities available to students rather than providing instruction in the form of a lecture or other means.

The role of the instructor needs to change ? By establishing active and strong online presence, a topic we will return to in more depth, the instructor demonstrates his or her expertise and guides the students in their learning process.

The responsibility for learning needs to change ? With the instructor acting as guide, resource, and facilitator, students need to take more responsibility for their own learning process.

The purpose and process of assessment and evaluation need to change ? Traditional means of assessment and evaluation need to change ? traditional means of assessment, such as tests and quizzes, do not always meet the mark when it comes to this form of learning. Consequently, other forms of assessment, such as self-assessment and application activities, should be incorporated to assess student learning and evaluate areas for potential course improvement (Palloff & Pratt, 2003).

What we have been discussing here is what good facilitation looks like in an online course. But how does this translate into the characteristics of the excellent online instructor? And are the same characteristics required regardless of the level at which the online course is offered: K?12 through graduate level? An issue-oriented white paper that was published following a conference on virtual pedagogy (Kircher, 2001) offered the following characteristics: organized; highly motivated and enthusiastic; committed to teaching; supports student-centered learning; open to suggestions; creative; takes risks; manages time well; responsive to learner needs; disciplined; and is interested in online delivery without expectation of other rewards. Savery (2005) offers the VOCAL acronym to describe the effective online instructor. In other words, the effective online instructor is Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical, and a Leader by example. The Illinois Online Network (2007) a
 dds to the list by noting that good online instructors have a broad base of life experience in addition to their teaching credentials; demonstrate openness, concern, flexibility, and sincerity (characteristics we have consistently equated with online excellence); feel comfortable communicating in writing (A characteristic also stressed by Kearsley, n.d.); accept that the facilitated model of teaching is equally powerful to traditional teaching methods; value critical thinking; and are experienced and well-trained in online teaching. Kearsley (n.d.) also notes that having experienced online instruction as a student also helps, something that we support wholeheartedly. Clearly, it is this last component?well trained in online instruction?that we will be emphasizing in this book and we contend that regardless of the educational level of the student enrolled in the online class, this is the key to excellence. Before we embark on that exploration, however, we want to delve furthe
 r into a few areas that we feel are significant in the emergence of excellence online?the ability to establish presence, create and maintain a learning community, and effectively develop and facilitate online courses.

References

? Chickering, A. W., & Gamson, Z.F. (1987). Seven principles for good practice in undergraduate education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-6.

? Graham, C., Kursat, C., Byung-Ro, L., Craner, J., & Duffy. T. M. (2001). Seven principles of effective teaching: A practical lens for evaluating online courses, The Technology Source (Mar./Apr. 2001). Retrieved from: [http://ts.mivu.org/default.asp?show=article&id=839].

? Illinois Online Network (2007). Pedagogy & learning: What makes a successful online facilitator? Retrieved from [http://www.ion.uillinois.edu/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/instructorProfile.asp].

? Kearsley. G. (n.d.). Tips for training online instructors. Retrieved from [http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/OItips.htm.

? Kircher, J. (2001). What are the essential characteristics of the successful online teacher and learner? Issue-oriented Dialogue White Paper, Virtual Pedagogy Conference, UW Oshkosh, July 18, 2001. Retrieved from [http://www.uwsa.edu/ttt/kircher.htm].

? Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2003). The virtual student: A profile and guide to working with online learners. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

? Savery, J. (2005). Be vocal: Characteristics of successful online instructors. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 4(2), 141-152. Retrieved from [http://ncolr.org/jiol].

? Weimer, M. G. (2002). Learner-centered teaching: Five key changes to practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.